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Thursday, July 21, 2011

No to Land Acquisition for private purposes

South Indian Farmers Consultation
On Land Acquisition Act
Chennai, 12 July 2011
 Report by Ashlesha Khadse and Kannaiyan

We the members of SICCFM (South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements) representing south India's farmers had a discussion in Chennai on the 12 July with the participation of various farmers’ leaders from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

We condemn the idea of land grabbing by the state for corporate interests from those who depend on land for their livelihoods. A farmer without land is like a fish without water. Others who depend on farmers for their livelihoods also suffer an immeasurable loss when land is taken away. Some may point out that farmers are willing to sell their lands, but the bitter truth today is that India’s faulty policies are leaving us no choice. This is due to the promotion of a wrong model of agriculture and a market oriented farming system which is leading to poor and volatile prices of produce, expensive inputs, degrading lands and water tables, loss of agro-diversity, lack of public services and mass suicides due to indebtedness. This is the reason that some farmers are doing the unthinkable – selling off their lands at the great price of the loss of identify, livelihood and breakdown of their community. They do this at the prospect of some short term monetary gain in a desperate situation but this is no long term solution to India's development. This trend will only swell up the numbers of the poor, increase urban migration, unemployment and slums in cities.  India cannot put its food producers through this loss of dignity. That is why we have come up with the following demands on the new law that will govern land sales from farmers for development purposes. Let’s have a law that will uphold people's rights over resources as the main basis of development.

The general principles on land needs for development

1.    We say no to land acquisition for private purposes. If industries need land then they can buy lands at the market prices in the real estate market from willing sellers. We need a government authority to make sure that no private entity uses underhand methods like harassing, bribery etc to purchase lands without farmers consent. Heavy penalties should be imposed on such cheaters.

2.    The concept of eminent domain should be nullified. The state cannot have the right to alienate anyone from their land.  If land is needed for a government project for public purpose and for development purposes then a democratic discussion should take place with the land owners and a transparent process should carry out the establishment of the public purpose behind the proposed project, the terms of compensation and rehabilitation and only after prior informed consent of the affected community and gram sabhas should the project planning start.

3.    We reject forceful acquisition of land. Land can be forcefully acquired only from those holding excess lands above land ceiling to be used for development and upliftment of the poor, agriculture and rural economy based livelihood generation and housing for the poor. 

4.    Prior informed consent should the primary guiding principle behind receiving land for public purposes.

5.    We demand an end to the 'urgency clause'. No forceful acquisitions should take place.

6.    Least or no displacement should take place. Options assessments must form part of all proposed projects.

7.    Land cannot be turned into uses that are unproductive. Especially cultivable land use should be reserved for agricultural purposes only.

8.    The rights of women and minorities should be protected at all times and their right to land should be recognized.

9.    Land titles should not be transferred if possible.  We may consider ideas like long term leasing of land, but the land should be returned to the original owners in the original condition after the use is over.  

If land is needed for government projects directed towards development and public purpose then then we demand the following to be incorporated in the law that will govern this process:-

  1. Compensation:
1.    10 times the value of the market price should be given. Market price means the operative prices at the time of purchase.
2.    The compensation should also take into consideration the future price and value increase for the next 20 years as a result of the change in the land use.
3.    If the land seller so desires then a choice should be available to them to receive that part of the compensation which is above and over the lump sum land price in monthly instalments over the next 33 years.
4.    The land losers should also be given a percentage share in the new upcoming project.
5.    Shares and debentures cannot form part of the main compensation but can only be offered above and beyond the compensation so as to avoid any losses to the land givers.
6.    Compensation should be given in joint accounts with women of the family as well as land titles in the case of land for land should be in the name of both men and women.
7.    Those people whose livelihoods will be affected such as dependents on the land [labourers, tenants etc] should be counted as affected persons and also receive compensation or solatium.

  1. Rehabilitation
1.    Those losing livelihood should receive the first priority for jobs in the proposed project and if there is a skill gap then training should be provided. One member of the family should be guaranteed a government job as a result of the loss of livelihood
2.    Land for land should be the first principle of rehabilitation.
3.    A transparent process with participation of the affected people should drive the designing of the rehabilitation package. This should ensure that the people rehabilitated are left better off than before. Their incomes should be at least 6 times better under the new rehabilitated project.
4.    Strategies should be created to ensure that the communities’ development needs are fulfilled. The community should discuss its needs and decide how to include these in the rehabilitation project.
  1. Mechanisms
1.    We demand a process that is transparent and democratic. It should include the participation of the concerned gram sabhas at all levels of the project planning and implementation.
2.    We demand one national authority for the entire land receiving, compensation and rehabilitation process.
3.    This authority should be of easy access to affected persons.
4.    The decisions of this authority should be challengeable at the court.

  1. Issues before receiving land
1.    Prior informed consent should be taken.
2.    Public purpose should be established.
3.    Options assessments should be done. Displacement should be the last option.
4.    Social impact assessments and environmental impact assessments should be undertaken.
5.    Compensation and rehabilitation should be completed first before taking possession of the land.

  1. Violations and misuse
1.    Land that is not used within 5 years should be returned to the original owners. It cannot be auctioned off for other purposes with the government pocketing the profits. If a new purpose is needed then the entire process for prior informed consent should be initiated.
2.    Stringent penalties should be formulated to penalize any violations of the new act.

Other demands

-        The repealing of the outdated 1894 land acquisition act and a new law for both land purchasing and rehabilitation. This law should have a name that highlights the real development needs of the people and does not reduce the land sellers to victims but recognizes their right to land.
-        A national public consultation should take place to define “public purpose”.
-        There should be an immediate stop to all ongoing land acquisitions until the new law is brought out to the satisfaction of the people.
-        A White paper should be released on all past land acquisitions and their current status.

Endorsed by:

Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi
KarnatakaRajya Rayatha Sangam (KRRS)
Kerela Coconut Farmers Association
Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha

And representatives of farmers groups in Tamil Nadu including CIFA, Tamil Nadu.

For further details: